April 15, 2009 is a day that will go down in the annals of Domino’s
Pizza history. The day started out just fine—the red-and-blue-and-black
brand was as strong as ever.
Then the clock hit 3:30 p.m.—text messages, e-mails, and phone calls
started to trickle in to corporate executives. Soon, messages started
pouring in, and within an hour it was a deluge!
The cause for all the attention?
Two employees in the Conover, North Carolina Domino’s had been
messing around the kitchen. Laughing hysterically, they flung dough at
each other. They stuck ingredients up their nostrils, and then blew
them on uncooked sandwiches.
What made it worse was that they videotaped their “fun” and uploaded the footage on YouTube for everyone to see.
With the help of Twitter, Facebook, and other online social mediums, millions upon millions of viewers were drawn to the clip.
It was a corporate disaster.
Welcome to the (sometimes unwieldy) world of online branding!
Should businesses create social media policies? If so, how?
Recent research from Robert Half Technology reveals that over half
of chief information officers (CIOs) do not allow employees to visit
social networking sites for any reason while they are at work (1,400
CIOs from companies around the United States with 100 or more
Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, reported
that “using social networking sites may divert employees’ attention
away from more pressing priorities, so it’s understandable that some
companies limit access.” However, he added that for “some professions,
however, these sites can be leveraged as effective business tools,
which may be why about one in five companies allows their use for
Chad Houghton, the director of e-media and business development at
the Society for Human Resource Management, states that “the old way of
doing things is to create an unnecessarily restrictive model of
engagement that prevents companies from leveraging new media
appropriately.” He suggests that “it might be beneficial not to create
some arbitrary rules without first seeing where the opportunities and
risks really are.”
That being said, here are some things to consider as you weigh the
pros and cons of creating a social media policy for your business:
Clearly think through and explicitly state your corporate goals for social media usage
Your policy should be an extension of those goals. When you clearly
establish and communicate your goals and the tools available to
accomplish them, it should be easier to train associates on the
different social media tools and how they can be utilized appropriately.
Stress responsibility and good judgment
Educate your associates that they represent, if even in a very small
way, your company when they are active on social networks. Help them
understand they need to take responsibility for what they write and
exercise good judgment and common sense.
On any of the many social media channels, remember that potential
readers can include prospects, clients, and employees (current and
former). Consider who might come across different postings before
publishing them and make sure you aren’t offending any of those groups.
Content is King!
Social media will likely pay nice dividends for your company if you and
your associates add value to your followers, fans, viewers, readers,
and users. Give them content that is educational, informational,
PPP (Protect Proprietary Property)
Make sure associates understand what they can (and should) share and
what is to be kept behind the corporate veil of protection. Employees
who willingly and knowingly share confidential or proprietary
information should know they do so at the risk of losing their jobs and
possibly even ending up as a defendant in a civil lawsuit. Make all
ramifications clear in your company’s social media policy!
Stay productive and pay the bills!
Social media won’t help much unless your company is profitable and in
the black. Strike the appropriate balance between social media and
other work, and make sure you drive this point home with
Remember the “4 Rs”
If you are active in social media and are REAL, RELEVANT, and RESPONSIVE, you will create the business RELATIONSHIPS that will help make social media one of the best and most effective PR and marketing tools available.
So, what are the best next steps?
Search online and find examples of corporate social media policies,
and use them to help you craft yours. Include your associates in
creating the policies, and have them help create staff incentives for
moving the needle positively and, conversely, negative ramifications if
the policies are not adhered to strictly. Finally, consult legal
counsel to ensure the policy is legitimate and can be
In the end, social media can be a medium that helps raise company
morale while also raising company profits. Harness its power and
leverage the abilities of your staff to help you spread the word about
your product and services, and then sit back and enjoy the ride along
the (new and improved) information superhighway!